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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12125

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (21:02): I want to acknowledge the previous speakers and certainly the member for Melbourne Ports for the comments they made in support of this motion. I rise to support the member for Solomon's motion, which calls for 19 February of each year to be gazetted as the 'Bombing of Darwin Day' and be named a day of national significance by the Governor-General.

I have often read with interest the history of Darwin, the war that occurred and the events that followed afterwards. When you trawl through the documents of the National Archives, some of them reveal the essence of thinking and the relationships that prevailed after that event. I read one with interest. It was an Advisory War Council minute issued in Melbourne on 20 January 1942. It was titled, 'Press reports on the bombing of Darwin.' It stated:

The instructions by the Chief Publicity Censor, Department of Information, forbidding publication of sensational reports of enemy operations, unless officially confirmed, were noted.

The addendum stated:

At the meeting of the Advisory War Council on 5 January Mr Hughes referred to reports of the bombing which had recently been published in the press and on press postern in Sydney and Brisbane.

Unauthorised reports of this nature caused needless anxiety, especially to wives and families who had been evacuated from Darwin, and he asked that the Censorship authorities be requested to issue instructions that reports of this nature are not to be published by the press or referred to on press posters, unless they are sanctioned by a responsible authority of the Commonwealth Government.

'When my attention was directed to the dramatised enemy report in the "Sunday Telegraph", Sydney, and the "Truth" Brisbane, of the supposed bombing of Darwin, I immediately (on January 5) issued an interim instruction to Press and Broadcasting Station forbidding publication of sensational reports from enemy sources unless officially confirmed. This has since been simplified, and the current instruction rules (amended).'

That resulted in the suppression of the information in respect of the bombing of Darwin. It is a unique aspect of our history. It is probably the first time not only on our soil but also when military servicemen, servicewomen and civilians living within the township of Darwin were affected by a direct assault from an enemy on Australian soil. But the stories that are remembered and encapsulated reflect the fear, the unexpectedness and the brutality of war.

When I looked at Tora! Tora! Tora!and watched the film Australia, I got an inkling of the impact it must have had on that day—the human shock of a city that was peaceful being absolutely disrupted by a bombing process that had a number of bombs far greater than those of Pearl Harbour. The misery and the sense of pain that would have been felt would be significant.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of that bombing. I hope that we take this chapter out of our history and that we commemorate it in a way that acknowledges our servicemen and servicewomen and also the civilian population that was caught up in that conflict and that the remembering and the commemoration of those events will acknowledge the important element of our history that is a fabric of the society in which we live.

I support the member for Solomon's call for 19 February of each year to be gazetted as 'Bombing of Darwin Day' and to be named a day of national significance. It gives recognition and commemorates all of those who were affected. It acknowledges it was a phase in our history that, whilst not palatable, was nevertheless a very powerful intervention from an external force. I would hate to see us lose that aspect of our history and for future generations not to know the sequence of those events, the number of lives that were officially recorded as being lost and the damage that was incurred.

The commemoration will hopefully encourage others to scour the National Archives and to have a look at the stories that are human interest stories and a logistical factual tale and story of what happened in Darwin—so it is shared for future generations. Those affected will always be remembered.